Football is back! Now, what should the Chargers do? Who should they re-sign? Who should they attempt to acquire in free agency? Trades? Many looming questions roaming the minds of Chargers fans like myself.
The key un-restricted free agents on the Bolts are safety Eric Weddle; line backer Kevin Burnett and Stephen Cooper, and wide receiver Malcolm Floyd. All four players played key roles for the team last year. Weddle, Burnett, and Cooper helped anchor a much improved defense that ranked #1 overall. Malcolm Floyd was a very reliable target for quarterback Philip Rivers. Although Floyd did have injury issues, he stepped up big time in the absence of Vincent Jackson for most of the season due to suspension. Speaking about Vincent Jackson, he will probably be franchised and have to deal with not getting the long-term security he’s looking for.
I believe the main priority the Chargers have is to re-sign safety Eric Weddle. Weddle has blossomed into a pro bowl caliber player. He was a 2nd round pick out of Utah in 2007, he has continued to improve ever year. Last year, Weddle lead the team with 96 total tackles. He has an un-canny, un-replicable ability to help stop the run. While doing so, he rarely ever blew coverage in the secondary, his main priority. I believe Weddle will continue to develop and has the potential to be a top 5 safety in the NFL, May be already pushing the top 10. A.J. Smith made a good call by drafting Weddle and now he needs to make another good call by re-signing him.
The Chargers next priority should be attempting to retain Kevin Burnett. Burnett racked in 95 total tackles, only 1 off the team lead. He is known for his ability to help clog up the run and read defenses well. However, Burnett can get around the edge and get sacks, he had 6 last year. The linebacker need is glaring for the Chargers; I would expect him to fill that need nicely. As bad as they do need Burnett, makes the need for teammate Stephen Cooper much less.
Stephen Cooper was solid this past year. However, he is far from irreplaceable. I believe there are better players that currently are free agents that the Chargers should take a look at. I believe the best scenario for the Chargers would be to sign Titans line backer Stephen Tulloch. Tulloch had a total of 160 tackles, 111 of which were solo. He’s a veteran guy who will be entering his 7th season out of North Carolina State. Many experts believe he is arguably the best line backer on the open market. Other possibilities among many at line backer include, 49ers Takeo Spikes, Panthers James Anderson, Bills Paul Posluszny and many more. I think the Bolts best play at LB would be re-signing Burnett and trying to sign Tulloch or Spikes. Both Tulloch and Spikes are veteran players that still play at a high level and would be tremendous leaders in the locker room. Rumor has it the Chargers may be interested in acquiring Packers line backer Nick Barnett. Barnett would also be a good fit for this team, however the Chargers shouldn’t and won’t give up much for him with this much talent on the table for their picking.
The Chargers also need to figure out what to do at the wide receiver position. I would advise and expect the Chargers to part ways from wide-out Malcolm Floyd. I believe their best play is to go trade for Steve Smith of the Carolina Panthers. Smith wants out of Carolina, publically demanding a trade. He would he be happy to have a QB of Rivers pedigree tossing him the football. He would be a great complement to Vincent Jackson. Smith has the speed to break the top off a defense. While Jackson, is more of a possession wide out but does posses the ability to go “long”. Steve Smith still has the ability he had years ago although the production doesn’t match up. Years ago when Jake Delhomme was solid, Smith’s numbers were amazing. The last few years, he has worked with Jake when he went over the hill “to say the least” and the un-productivity of Jimmy Clausen. San Diego’s’ opponents would find it next to impossible to effectively cover Antonio Gates, Steve Smith, and Vincent Jackson, whom all have attracted double coverage to contain. A couple free agent wide receivers the Chargers should look at are Steve Breaston of the Cardinals, James Jones of the Packers, Brad Smith of the New York Jets, and Santana Moss of the Washington Redskins.
The Chargers have many options and glad that I’m not making the call. Expect San Diego to also explore some help on the offensive line. A.J. Smith and Norv Turner have a lot of decisions to make, with many options to choose from. I’m intrigued to see the moves they will be making.